David Walker is one of those people you can’t help but wonder what he was like as a child. There are a few things I know. He read lots and lots of comic books, books in general, and watched just about as many movies. It was during this time that The Island of Dr. Moreau captured his imagination and doesn’t seem to have let it go!
He always knew that he wanted to tell stories…Fast Forward. David is a professional writer and filmmaker of more than 15 years. I don’t know about you, but he is the only expert on Blaxploitation films I’ve come across in recent years. Now rewind. As a child, David discovered and began watching Blaxploitation movies. Beyond the films, he was curious about what happened to the actors and actresses who starred in these movies. Many years later, he began researching the answers to his questions. He watched tons of movies, read old copies of Ebony and Jet magazines and took notes. He tried unsuccessfully to convert his research into a film. When that didn’t work, he turned to print and sometime in the 1990’s he created Bad Azz Mofo the magazine. David’s lingering love of Dr. Moreau led him to write the digital comic series The Army of Dr. Moreau. He also authors Super Justice Force: The Adventures of Darius Logan a YA novel featuring a Black, male protaganist. Check him out, www.badazzmofo.com.
David Walker, how does it feel to be one of the Baddest Mofo’s this city has ever produced?
I give more credit to my parents and my grandparents for producing me than I do the city, but it still feels good. The city of Portland has definitely presented me with challenges, but it has also been good to me. This is the place where my imagination was cultivated, which is what helped me become a Bad Mofo.
You know, come to think of it, what exactly is a Bad Mofo? Can anybody be a Bad Mofo?
This is one of those questions that has a different answer depending on who you ask and when you ask them. Certainly my answer is different now from what it was say ten or twenty years ago. Right now, to me, a Bad Mofo is someone who walks into a room with the confidence to know they have earned the right to be in the room. Does that make sense? I was recently asked to give a presentation at a local college. The reason I was asked was because I know what I’m talking about, and I know how to communicate clearly. When I’m done, everyone in attendance will have learned at least one thing the didn’t know. I know this, and I’m going to walking into that room to give the presentation with confidence that I belong there, and that I’m bringing something no one else can bring. And that’s what a Bad Mofo is. Anyone can be one, but it takes years of training, kind of like kung fu.
Let me get this right, you are a writer, filmmaker and crime fighter, yes? Will you speak to each and how/if one informs the other? Like, I could imagine being a crime fighter inevitably informs your filmmaking…
Being a writer, filmmaker, and crime fighter are all connected to how I see the world, interact with the world, and give back to the world. Writing and making movies are at their core they same thing — storytelling. I tell stories. The medium may change, but they dynamic is fundamentally the same. As for being a crime fighter, that is more of a state of mind. What exactly is crime and how do you fight it? I wrote my first novel in response to what I saw as a shameful lack of books aimed at teenage boys of color. Illiteracy rates among black and brown teenage boys is at epidemic levels, and there are almost no books out there written for them, with characters they might be able to relate to on a deeply personal level. Sure, they might be able to enjoy a book, and relate to a character like Harry Potter or Percy Jackson on some level, but our media and popular culture seldom gives them positivie characters that look like them. It was the exact same way for me when I was a kid. And that is a crime. It is a crime that our daughters and sisters and mothers are disrespected and held in a regard that dehumanizes and objectifies them. Seeing these problems, and trying to address them in a way that I feel good about is how I fight crime. And every once in a while I put on a cape and wear my underwear on the outside, but the less said about that the better.
Will you please describe what you were like as a child, PLEASE? Is it drastically different from who you are today? And, what is it about H.G. Wells’ The Island of Dr. Moreau that captured your imagination as a child? So much so, you write your own Moreau series called, Army of Dr. Moreau…
I was a nerd as a kid. This was back when being a nerd wasn’t cool. But I was a cool nerd — perhaps the only one in existence. In that regard, I was pretty much the same as a kid as I am as an adult. Then, as now, I watched a lot of movies, and read a ton, both books and comic books. I can’t say for sure what it was about The Island of Dr. Moreau that captured my imagination as a kid, because my imagination was captured by so many things. I’d read so many books when I was younger, and seen so many movies, and I absorbed so much of it. I knew from a very early age I wanted to grow up and tell stories in some capacity. As I grew older, I looked back at some of the stuff that really stuck with me from my youth. The Island of Dr. Moreau provided a great jumping off point for a story that I wanted to tell, but didn’t have a way to tell it.
You once said anybody can make a movie? With technology being what it is, do you stand by that statement? Why or Why not?
I still believe anyone can make a movie, although that doesn’t mean just anyone can make a good movie, but yeah, anyone can do it. There is so much equipment out there, so many tools, and they can all be used to make movies. Every smart phone has a video camera, and you can use that. Me and a friend shot a short film using an iPhone 3. Making something good — something others will watch and not hate you for wasting their time — that’s something else completely different. Imagination and skill are not always readily available, but other tools are everywhere.
What is the name of your first film and what was it about? Do you have a copy hanging around somewhere?
The first film I made was in an afterschool program back when I was in high school. The title is “Brain Damage: What’s In It For You?” It was shot on Super 8 film, and I haven’t seen it since I was in high school. I’m sure it is terrible. The program I made the film through was run by the Northwest Film Center, and supposedly they still have all that stuff — boxes and boxes of ill conceived movies made by high school students in Portland back in the 1980s. I once suggested to them that dig all that stuff up and have a film festival of that stuff. I’d love to see what my idea of creativity was like thirty years ago.
David, you are a Blaxploitation expert. You appeared on E! True Legends in Hollywood, AMC’s Hell Up in Hollywood, and more. Will you define Blaxploitation? And take us down the road of becoming an expert of Blaxploitation?
Defining blaxploitation isn’t that easy. I made a documentary that tried to define it, and even though the doc is done, and find that the definition is forever changing. The most simple definition is that blaxploitation is both a genre and era of film, in which movies were made and marketed to a predominantly black audience, during the 1970s. If I am in fact an expert, I got there by watching a ton of movies — not just blaxploitation — and really studying film in its entirety. I also read a lot. And wrote a lot, much of very critically. But this is perhaps the most important thing — I studied more than just film and film history. Blaxploitation is merely part of what makes up the Black experience in America, and I’ve spent my life studying that. Someone might argue that there is no connection between slavery and blaxplotion movies, and that person would be wrong. Everything is connected to everything else, and understanding that, and examing something from that standpoint is the first step in becoming an expert in any given subject. You can’t be a expert on candy if you don’t know how chocolate is made.
Now, I’m gonna get personal. There’s a rumor floating around and it goes a little something like this, if your drawing skills weren’t so bad you’d be a comic book artist instead of a writer, true or false?
Yes, I wanted to be a comic book artist, and to be honest, I still do. But my skills were never that sharp, and I was much more lazy in my youth. By the time I developed anything that resembled discipline, I had stopped drawing and become so rusty it seemed like there was no turning back, so I moved forward with writing. I still doodle, and I keep telling myself that I’m going to get serious about drawing again, but that hasn’t happened yet. I look at my art, and I think it is terrible. But I also can tell you exactly what is wrong with it, and what needs to be improved, which makes me self aware. An artist that is self aware is never truly terrible, just in need of working harder.
Is the Bad Mofo single and ready to mingle?
I am in a relationship with the greatest woman to ever walk the Earth. The world should be jealous of me.